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Hollis Thomas on baseball, and other hilarity

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Asking former professional athletes to offer opinions on other sports can be lol-worthy.

Elsa

A couple of oddities from the media over the weekend...

Part I - Hollis Thomas

I understand Thomas is not in an easy position. He has his job because of his football experience, and (presumably) his ability to speak about that sport in an entertaining and interesting way. But because his show covers all of the Big Four, he is expected to demonstrate a minimum level of knowledge about other sports as well, and even be opinionated on those other sports, whether he has the knowledge to support those opinions or not.

That's a tough position to be in, but it's what he signed up for, and unfortunately it leads to some laughable moments. Often, especially over the last two-plus years, it's when his partner is discussing the Phillies, while Thomas chuckles randomly like a six year old laughing at the wrong parts of dirty jokes. But it's especially telling when he voices his own opinions.

For example, a couple of snippets below (paraphrased) were heard over the weekend in the same brief conversation about the Phillies' veterans, in the context of whether Chase Utley might someday get into the Hall of Fame. Thomas' response was an emphatic "No" because of injuries, which he claimed did more than just limit his career stats:

"Utley cost the Phillies a World Series because he didn't tell them his knees were hurting."

Now, it's not clear which World Series he was referring to here.

The 2012 World Series, the year the Phillies finished 81-81?

The 2011 WS, when the Phils got knocked out of the NLDS in spite of Utley's .438/.571/.688 (1.259 OPS) line in the series?

The 2010 WS maybe, because Utley hit .182/.333/.227 in the NLCS, after posting an .853 OPS in the NLDS?

Or the 2009 WS, where Utley hit .286/.400/1.048 (1.448 OPS) with 5 home runs?

We'll likely never know which he meant, and that's probably for the best.

Later in the same conversation, he also touched on the fact that Howard's late start hurt his chances for the Hall, even before his achilles injury and subsequent struggles:

"If the Phillies knew Howard was as good as he was, why did they sign Thome?"

Huh what?

How would the Phillies "know" that Howard was "as good as he was"?

The Phillies signed Jim Thome in December 2002. They were about to open a new park after one more season at Veterans Stadium, and wanted to build excitement around the team and the new park, and used some of the revenue that any new park is expected to generate.

So why didn't the Phillies just wait for Ryan Howard to arrive -- where was he in December 2002?

At the time of the Thome signing, this is what we knew about Howard:

  • He had been signed out of Missouri State University in the 5th round of the 2001 draft. Only about one in four 5th rounders ever make it to the majors, only one out of eight play in the majors for three years or more, and even fewer turn into impact players.
  • Howard had just turned 23 at that point, after completing his second season in pro ball at Low A Lakewood, where he hit .280/.367/460 (.828 OPS).

That's an ok year, but not exactly the type of hitting you look for from a first base prospect. Here are a couple of other first basemen of similar ages at Lakewood in recent years:

In 2008, 22 year old Matt Rizzotti had an .810 OPS.
In 2009, 23 year old Jim Murphy had an .860 OPS.

Or even at a level higher, at Clearwater:

In 2001, 23 year old Nate Espy had an .829 OPS.
In 2004, 24 year old Ryan Barthelemy had a .825 OPS.

Would the Phillies have responded to these seasons by holding off on any free agent signings so as not to block Matt Rizzotti, Jim Murphy, Nate Espy, or Ryan Barthelemy?

Granted, of these only Rizzotti was drafted as high (4th round) as Howard, while all the others were from rounds 10 to 18, and that influences expectations somewhat.

But to think that the Phillies would assume Howard would continue progressing, and one day make it to the majors, let alone put up MVP-like marquee stats, is just ludicrous.

Part II -- The Philadelphia Inquirer

Mentions of OBP and OPS are gradually heard more and more in the mainstream media. Even the Phillies have started incorporating OPS in some of their displays. While they still don't include it in a player's standard stat line, they have shown OPS on Phanavision when reporting a player's stats in a given situation, such as how they've done in the late innings, or with the bases loaded (here's hoping they incorporate into the standard stat lines next season).

But the Inquirer often seems to be very much stuck in the previous century. On Sunday for example, In an otherwise informative update on the farm system, they showed these stat lines for two of their top three Phillies' prospects (Nola was the third):

Milb_medium

First, it's nice that they included last week, to give an idea of how a player is doing recently.  But for example on Crawford, is his season line good, very good, or just ok? Or worse?

Never mind his position, or his age, but just looking at that line, are we only supposed to use batting average to gauge that? Are 18 doubles in 369 ABs (not PAs) good? Are we expected to convert these to full-year stats in our heads? -- 20 doubles in 369 at bats would be 30 in like 540 at bats, which is almost a full season, so that seems pretty good?

Where's OBP, or OPS? Marc Narducci to his credit used OPS liberally in the accompanying articles and updates, and that's nice to see, but whoever made the above tables decided it was more important to show the number of triples, for example.

Oh well. we may have to rely on the interwebs for useful stats.